An Authentic Experience – Kelly Wittmann

I was sent a free copy of this book in return for an unbiased review by the author

‘Supposedly it’s against the body clock of a teenager to get up early in the mornings, but Silver loved to rise before the sun to work with her grandfather at the family business, Tomasino’s bakery. On these quiet mornings they would roll out dough together and bake the pastries that went on sale at 7am, under the supervision of Pope Francis, whose portrait hung on the wall.’

an authentic experience

Fifteen-year-old Silver Abelli’s life has been as tumultuous as the punk rock she was raised on. Her divorced parents just don’t get along, even though they’re both musicians who stubbornly spurn the mainstream but secretly crave the limelight. Silver has always lived with her mom, Nicola, but when Nicola is diagnosed with a brain tumor, she must go to live with her obnoxious, hard-partying father, Renz. Because her family is so traumatized by Nicola’s condition, Silver doesn’t know where to turn when she suffers her own trauma. Will the truth set her free, or will it only make a bad situation worse?

 

What I thought

I think one of real strengths of this book was showing the intensity of a first relationships. Due to Silver being home-schooled she doesn’t really have much experience of the first world and can be incredibly naive. In the first couple of pages she notes that her mother has been teaching her sarcasm. She’s 15! I love the age of my Brownies (7-11) because they are just learning sarcasm so I can joke around with them more. It’s clear from the beginning that her knowledge of the real world is from books and TV and she doesn’t really know her place in the world outside of that.
Everything with Jake (the crush/boyfriend) is new. In fact she’s only just starting to socialise at all with her cousin. She’s so careful and excited to do everything, there are a couple of warning signs about different things that someone with a bit more world experience would probably pick up on.
But mostly she’s just desperate to do it and to do it all now. The whole book is fueled by this intense need to do as much as possible and by her relationships with her parents, with Jake and with her cousin Natalie.

Natalie is an interesting character. We all know someone like Natalie, she’s a reasonably sized fish in a very small pond. Which makes her look even bigger. And she thinks a lot of herself to. She’s the kind of person who says “I’m not racist but…” or “I’m completely ok with them being ok but…” and the thing is she really doesn’t think she’s racist or homophobic. When she discovers that her exchange student is a lesbian she makes up all sort of reasons (excuses) to not be seen out with her and keeps going on about how she’s fine with it but it would have been only polite to tell her as they were sharing a room. In fact one of the best lines from her is this:
“How do I know to be happy & accepting if i’m not told about it?”

The dad drove me up the wall. You know how some people refuse to admit they are an adult and still act like a teenager/someone without responsibilities? This is Renz. He’s still determined to be that punk rock/indi musician god and ignore the fact that he’s now in his 40s and has a kid. His job is podcasting (which is a pretty awesome job to have) where he spends all day talking about his favourite topic and explaining why he’s better than everyone else in that ‘fandom’ because he loved it before it was cool. Seriously. That is how he closes every show. “Remember I loved Indi before it was cool” (or words to that effect).
This is the WORST part of fandom, and the internet has only exacerbated this idea that because you knew of something first you’re better than everyone, including the new creators/actors (Kelly Marie Tran and Star Wars anyone?).
but as much as I hated the dad, and he could be a bit stereotypical at times, it was also quite real. He was grasping onto any bit of his youth possible even if that meant not always being there for his daughter. But when she really needed him he dropped everything to be at her side. And it shows good writing that I can have such strong feelings for this character.

(The mum can behave like a teenager at times too but she’s had a tumor pushing on her brain and is on lots of medication so she gets a bit more of a pass.)

This book really encapsulated how difficult having seperated parents can be as well as dealing with an illness in the family. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Silver even goes back to calling her mum ‘Mommy’ because she needs that strength as well as her mum needing to hear it at times. There are times when we all become little kids and just need our parents to make it better, and sometimes those parents are the reason we’re feeling terrible. But it doesn’t change the fact you just want them to protect you. And seeing your mother deal with major surgery and all the problems with medication is one of those times.

 

Why I read it:

I read this because I sent a free copy to review. I was interested because of the idea of how parents illnesses make an impact on the ‘kids’. Also because Silver’s teenage rebellion is essentially being as straight laced as possible to go against her parents punk rock and indi background.

 

Final Thought

This is a story of a brilliantly dysfunctional family and the teenager trapped in the middle of it all. With her mum trying to work out who she is on medication and without a tumor that she’d had since being a teenager, and a dad who embodies the worst kind of fandom (I liked it before it was ‘cool’ and for longer than you therefore I know better), Silver is thrown into the world of socialising and dating. Due to her being home-schooled she can be quite naive at times but it was exciting to see her grow into herself. The relationship has all the intensity of your first crush/boyfriend which was only coupled and made more intense by the fact she hadn’t really had a social life before and therefore assumes everything is like TV or the movies. Her grandparents are amazing and do their best to keep her on the straight and narrow.

Personally I wasn’t fussed by the swearing (but then I’m apparently an ‘adult’ – not that you could pay me to be 15 again) but I can understand why some people would be. However this book does come with a content warning so you can’t say that you didn’t expect it.
The ending happens quite quickly and it does feel like the author tried to tie all the loose threads up in a bow. Personally I don’t mind when some threads are left hanging, because that’s what real life is.

Would I have picked this up normally? Probably not, maybe.
Am I glad I read it? I think so
Did I enjoy reading it? It kept me brilliantly distracted in a hospital waiting room, to the point where I was surprised to hear my name being called.

Would I recommend? Yeah, not to everyone but I would definitely suggest it to a handful of my friends

Challenges

PopSugar: Borrowed/Given as a gift, published in 2018, problem facing society today.

 

Look, I’m here, on time. On a day where I was supposed to put a post up.
I’ve also started making some notes about the books I’m reading which will probably cause my reviews to be a bit longer, which means they’ll be 1000+ rather than 800-900. This one is 1200 and I’m going to aim for about this length.
If the reviews are getting too long please let me know, I’m still working all this out. But I like having the space to discuss the books I read.

As always please leave a comment, let me know about what you think and if you’d pick this one up.

Rea

P.S My next review is ‘A Thousand Perfect Notes’ by Cait Drews

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